Millions of Americans struggle to put healthy food like fruits and vegetables on their tables, but a new program being piloted in New York City by Wholesome Wave hopes to change that.
Wholesome Wave was founded 11 years ago by chef Michel Nischan to increase underserved communities’ access to fresh produce by working mainly with farmers’ markets, and now “we want to meet people where they are,” said Skye Cornell, chief programs officer. “The vast majority of people are shopping in grocery stores, so we’re really looking to help people take home fruits and vegetables from the grocery store.”
Earlier this month, Wholesome Wave, with support from Naked, launched a rewards card preloaded with $20 each week for New Yorkers to purchase produce at six participating supermarkets in Harlem, the Bronx and Queens.
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“We’re able to reach people who we know are particularly seeking healthy food from those food pantries,” Cornell said.
Monday, a cardholder from Washington Heights, told Metro she signed up for the card as soon as she heard about it and has used it three times already.
“Brussels sprouts, blueberries, forget it — there’s no way I could afford those,” Monday said. “But now that I have the card, I can.”
When cardholders use their weekly $20 allotment, the card will automatically be reloaded for a max of $180 through December. For those wondering just how much fresh produce $20 can provide, Wholesome Wave estimates participants can obtain them for about $1.70 per pound, or 50 cents per serving.
“It can really make a significant difference for the average family size that we’re seeing, which is up to four people,” Cornell explained. “It’s really important to us to help provide enough funding to support the whole family.”
Wholesome Wave is currently eyeing 10 additional sites across the country to roll out the rewards card program, including a deeper expansion in New York City, in 2019.